COLLEGE PARK, MD – The rematch is finally here. Kind of.
Virginia returns a majority of their offensive firepower from last season, including the three players who scored all nine goals in the 9-7 victory that ended the Terps’ title run. Since last season, Maryland has replaced all of its defensive starters and two-thirds of its starting attack line.
Maryland junior midfielder John Haus, who scored one goal and had two assists in the championship, hasn’t forgotten the pain of that loss.
“That’s always in the back of your mind. That’s something that we as a team worked for, for the whole year, and years before that, to win a national championship. To finally get there and for them to take that away from us, it hurts,” he said.
Junior face-off specialist Curtis Holmes said he can’t wait for a chance to avenge the loss.
“It does eat you a little bit inside. You want to go out there and play your best game, to kind of get a little bit of revenge and prove to yourself and everyone else that we’re good enough to win a national championship.”
Both Maryland and Virginia are coming off a loss.
The Tar Heels held on in a wild finish and beat the Terps 11-10 in rainy Chapel Hill.
It was the first time Maryland had to play in the rain this season.
Holmes said it definitely had an effect on the game.
“We didn’t test the field as well as we should have in warm ups, cutting around on the field, seeing where there [were] slick spots,” he said.
Haus said the offense struggled to adapt to the conditions.
“Our stick work, you could tell, wasn’t the same,” Haus said. “A lot of balls were going high, low. That’s unacceptable for us, that should never happen.”
Even with the mistakes, Maryland had a chance to send the game into overtime.
Late in the game, with the Terps trailing by two, Cooper checked McBride in the head. McBride retaliated by trying to tackle Cooper. Cooper then proceeded to punch McBride in the helmet a few times before the players were separated by teammates and referees. Both players were ejected.
Head coach John Tillman said Cooper is the last person he would have picked to be involved in such an altercation.
“He’s very quiet, pretty mild mannered guy, pretty low key. It’s out of character for him to do something like that,” Tillman said.
“Guys try to get under your skin…You just have to be smart enough and mature enough to realize he’s going to try to do something to get me to lose my cool and I’m not going to fall into that trap. It takes self discipline,” Tillman said.
In Tillman’s time in College Park, he’s brought a greater sense of discipline.
“We preach discipline all the time around here and making sure you do the right thing. We want to play with emotion, but we don’t want to be emotional,” Tillman said.
Cooper has been suspended for one game and will not be available against Virginia.
Virginia boasts the most talented team in the country on paper. The Cavaliers have four players on the Tewaaraton Watch List, given annually to college lacrosse’s best player, the most of any school.
That includes the 2011 winner and Baltimore native, senior attack Steele Stanwick. Stanwick leads the fifth best scoring offense in the country, averaging 13 goals a game. Through nine games Stanwick has 11 goals and 28 assists.
Also on the watch list is first team pre-season All-American midfielder, Colin Briggs. Briggs was named “Most Outstanding Player” of last year’s NCAA Tournament thanks to a career best five goals in the championship versus Maryland.
Briggs (13 goals and 11 assists this season) and Stanwick both have double digit goals and assists and lead a quartet of players who have scored at least 20 points.
Maryland’s sixth-ranked scoring defense will face their toughest test of the season.
Holmes said his team is mentally strong, but a potential loss could disrupt things for the Terps.
“Having two losses in a row can kind of mess with some people so I think getting a win this week is really important. If you lose more than one in a row, people start to doubt themselves as individual players,” Holmes said.
But a win would put Maryland at 2-1 in conference play and guarantee that no one else in the ACC would finish with a better record.
“We kind of control our own destiny,” Holmes said. “If we win, it’s like we’re regular season ACC champs.”